Last week I worked the Gold Rush Adventure Race. We had 11 teams working their way through paddle, trek, bike, trek, bike, trek, ropes, raft, and finally a last trek. The full course was 285 miles, although some of the teams were short-coursed because of time.
I started at TA2 (transition) where racers went from trek to bike, then TA3 – from bike to trek, TA4 – from trek to bike, and lastly, TA5 – from bike to trek. I saw the same teams, TA after TA.
I did not count the number of racers on whose feet I worked. I didn’t matter. My goal, as always, is to get the racer back in the race. I worked on some of the racers feet multiple times.
I quickly noticed a problem.
Racers would come into the TA and remove their shoes. They needed to change footwear – from bike shoes to shoes for trekking and visa versa – and change clothes too. TAs also meant dismantling and packing their bikes, or unpacking and assembling them. This was often done in the sun – and it was hot.
We had tarps set up for the teams to change on. It kept some of the dirt off their feet – but not all the dirt. The tarps were dirty and there was small twigs, bits of leaves, pinecone pods and seeds, and small stones. A lot of stuff to be walked on and stick to socks.
I usually patched blisters and applied tape as a preventive measure. I advised them to keep the tape as clean as possible and not get it wet.
Then I watched as they worked on their bikes, walked around, and sometimes went down into the river. They walked as gingerly as possible over the rocks and sticks. I don’t fault them; they did what needed to be done. I would have done the same.
The problem I noticed was that racers were compromising their feet, and any patch or tape job, by walking around without anything on their feet.
They had bike boxes for their expensive bikes and large gearboxes for their footwear, clothes, food, and whatever gear they wanted to pack. Of all the racers, I remember only a few who had the foresight to pack flip-flops. An inexpensive set of flip-flops might cost $5 – that can easily help your feet.
So here’s my recommendation. If you are involved in a multi-day race, any race with transitions, or even a one day event where you will have rest times, invest in a pair of flip-flops to protect your feet and any patch job or tape on them.
The same goes for hikers and backpackers. Lightweight flip-flops weigh next to nothing. Another option is to wear Crocs. They provide protection of one’s toes and tops of the feet, which flips-flops do not offer.
There is something to be said for taking your shoes and socks off when resting during a race, multi-day run, or long hike. Your feet like to be aired and if there is macerated because of water, airing them will help dry out the skin. But do yourself a favor and pack a pair of flip-flops or Crocs.
Summer officially starts soon. With it, if you haven’t
already started, comes the wearing of sandals or flip-flops. There are also
possible hazards for your feet. A bit of care can help your feet survive in
spite of how we treat them.
Support – remember that generally speaking, sandals are better for your
feet than flip-flops. They offer better support and protection around the foot,
and a more stable base. If you look at most flip-flops, they
are very thin
soled, often thinner on one side as the wearer walks on the side. The heel is
often exposed to the sidewalk. There is nothing to really keep the foot in-line
with the footbed of the flip-flop. At least with sandals a strap goes over the
forefoot and another around the heel, keeping the foot on the footbed. Most
flip-flops offer no arch support and no heel support. The foot is not secure
and it can easily slip to one side leading to a fall or a turned ankle. Then,
to top it off, the feet are usually dirty, often with calluses and cracked
heels. Often it is not a pretty sight. I wear flip-flops around the house, but
not in public.
Protection – Feet on flip-flops are exposed to anything and everything.
You can easily stub toes, something may drop on your feet, they might scrap
against curbs or rocks, and they are easily pierced by anything sharp. Sandals
offer more protection over, around and under feet.
Function – Flip-flops are designed for casual wear, not for extended
walking, exercise, golf, running – and especially not mowing your lawn. Sport
sandals are a better choice.
Given a choice, I’d recommend sandals over flip-flops.
Need more convincing? A study on flip-flops was released
last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
Researchers at Auburn University in Alabama recruited 39 college-age men and
women, and measured how the participants walked on a special platform wearing
thong flip-flops. Study author Justin Shroyer, a
graduate student in Auburn's Department of Kinesiology, reported, "What we
saw is that when people walk in flip-flops, they alter their gait, which may
explain why we see some lower leg and foot problems in people who wear these
shoes a lot."
If you choose to wear flip-flops, at least
buy new ones every four months. When the thin footbed flattens out, it’s time
to replace them.
After all, we want our feet to be happy.
Warm weather is here and with it comes flip-flops and sandals. These range from the inexpensive throw-away-after-one-year flip flops to more expensive sandals. Given a choice, which are better for your feet?
Flip-flops, sometimes called thongs (not to be confused with underwear), are typically a piece of foam the shape of a foot and about ½ inch thick, with a rubber piece that come up between the big and first toe and extends to the sides. They are a simple design. As your foot moves through a footstrike, the heel often comes up and slaps your heel, making the tell-tale flip-flop noise. They offer no support, little cushioning, and no degree of control over the motion of the foot and ankle. Depending on the wearer, their toes may curl against the foam to keep the flip-flops in place. They may also be worn tight on the foot to keep them from coming off.
Variations on the flip-flop included designs with a strap over the top of the foot, a loop to hold one or two toes in place, nubs on the top of the foam to massage the feet, and various types of foam for durability.
Flip-flops are fine for around the house and at the beach. Too many people wear them out in public when they should have tossed them a long time ago. The foam is compressed down to nothing and the foot seems to roll off the top. As you step down from a curb or over a rock on a trail, there is nothing to control where your foot goes.
Sandals, on the other hand, with their variety of straps and strapping methods, offer more support and control. Usually, the sole is stronger and thicker, offering cushioning, can be safely worn on trails. Many sandals have a strap around the heel that locks the sandal on the foot. With well made sandals that have a good strapping system, stepping down from a curb or over a rock on a trail will provide a small degree of support and control. Strapping variations include toe loops, quick-release buckles, and straps over the forefoot and around the heel, or just over the forefoot.
Sandals also offer a classier look in public. Many people wear sandals everywhere and with all types of clothes.
Given a choice, I’d choose sandals over flip-flops any day.
Of course, if you are going to wear flip-flops or sandals, make sure your skin and nails are well cared for. Nothing says “poor foot care” more than unclipped toenails, toenails with fungus, heels full of calluses, or an obvious case of athlete’s foot. Previous blogs have discussed Dry and Cracked Feet?, Filing Toenails, and Trimming Toenails – It’s Not That Hard!.